Where do I even begin?
So what do you end up doing? Nothing. And sadly, that’s what the majority of small business owners end up doing.
Since doing nothing and being like everyone else doesn’t help your bottom line, today we’ll start small and help you move in the right direction without getting so overwhelmed that you give up.
Sound good? Great, let’s get started.
Where Do I Start When My Business Has No Online Presence?
Think I’d say a website? Not quite. There’s definitely something you can and should do before heading into the website arena: it’s claiming the online spaces that already exist for your business.
You may think that since you haven’t made an online presence for your business, there isn’t one, but that’s not always the case.
The web is a very social place and there are countless sites that index information and make business directories. People can even review these businesses, regardless of whether you even realize that listing is there.
Step one for any small business is to claim their profiles in a few key places to make sure that when they are being found, the right information and image is presented. We’ll start with just one of those key places (see baby steps!):
Google + Local (Formerly Google Places)
Google + Local is the online Google directory of businesses large and small. To get listed, you need to sign up through Google’s website and verify your phone number and address. This can be done with a text message to your phone and a postcard they send through the mail to your business address.
97% of consumers look online for local businesses. 97%, well that’s nearly everyone, isn’t it? By registering your business with Google, your address and business name pops up when people Google something like Lac La Biche electricians with a tidy map of where all those electricians are located.
Without taking the few minutes to register your business, you’re missing out on this free advertising.
If you have registered with Google, has it been awhile since you checked out your Google profile? Are your phone numbers out of service? Have you added pictures, business hours (very helpful with the new mobile app discussed below) and keywords about your services or product to really optimize your page?
Your potential customers see this profile and make judgments about you and your business. Warranted or not, these snap judgments can cost you business or bring you more, which would you prefer?
Not only can users add pictures and information about your business they can also review it. This feature in Google + Local is just really starting to take off with the recent integration of a large restaurant rating company, Zagat into the Google empire. A present, customers can still review businesses but over time, Google will be averaging the scores to give overall business ratings which will no doubt be featured prominently by the listing.
If you don’t have any reviews, don’t just wait for someone to leave one, become proactive. Ask past customers to provide their feedback on your profile. Don’t be shy, people are often thrilled to help and most businesses have very few reviews, yours can really stand out with a few glowing ones.
Google + Local Mobile
Google + Local also has a mobile app that helps users find establishments in their immediate proximity. I can’t tell you how many times, I have opened up my app to see where the best place was to eat (yup, even read those customer reviews!) It’s very common and it’s going to become even more so.
Get inside your customers head and think about making your business more accessible to them. It’s something we hear a lot, the business owner doesn’t use a smart phone so it’s not a priority. Does your target customer use mobile technology? That’s the more important question, and in most industries the answer is yes.
Get on that profile! Spiff it up, ask for reviews, add photos, video even and make it represent your business better. Put yourself in your customers shoes. This profile is brief and to the point, you don’t get tons of space here. Spend a few minutes thinking about what the most common questions are from customers and try to answer those in your profile. Don’t clog it up with a company history, that’s for your about page.